Many's the time most of us of a certain generation have been heard to utter the old country saying, “Well, that beats Banagher!” when shocked and awed by an unexpected development of one kind or another in the headlines.

I said it out loud again a couple of days ago when the last hideaway of two of the most savage tyrants in Irish history was unearthed just a few miles away from our Killaloe home. They were together, Oliver Cromwell and King Billy of the Boyne, the begetters of the border which is causing all this Brexit confusion and friction across Europe recently and, boy, had they not fallen hard from their pedestals.  And that is a historic truth if ever there was one.

They were hiding away under frozen grass, the pair of them, close to an old abandoned outhouse on the outskirts of Cratloe.  Again, as is so often the case, they were not tracked down by the gardai but by a Cratloe man out for a walk through the fields.

He instantly reported the sighting of the tyrants to the gardai and they have been taken into custody, I gather from reliable sources, while a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

I surmise it will take years for that file to hit the headlines again.  I’ll keep a sharp eye on developments for ye in the meantime.

My initial inquiries reveal that the gardai have been in pursuit of the tyrants for the last seven or eight years without any real success. The pair was last seen together in Charleville in high society altogether, far removed from an old Clare outhouse.

It is perhaps significant that they disappeared from public view in the month of July 2011 because King Billy, as we know too well, has always been bloodily associated with the month of July, notably the Twelfth of July which his marching Orangemen descendants still triumphantly garnish with sashes and banners bearing his image and what good work he did for them on the banks of the Boyne, even if it did create the genuinely hard border which has been so problematic and costly to the nation ever since. And by all accounts from wiser observers than me, there are likely to be worse consequences before this year is out.

I’m quite soberly wondering if the pair of wanton invaders of our little island back in their plundering prime are now receiving the kind of psychiatric treatment which both surely need very badly. They are likely to be awaiting that on guarded trolleys given the current chaotic state of our health system.

I presumed too, as I pondered the possibilities facing them, that they will be granted free legal aid if the DPP ever moves formally against them in our courts.  And will those who aided them in escaping from Cork on a July night nine years ago and more will they ever be identified and charged as assisting in the commission of a crime or crimes?  It was at this point I was driven to shout aloud into the night, “Well that beats Banagher!”

I was woefully wrong in that assumption again. I confess it freely.

It appears to be a fundamental facet of Irish rural life that nothing beats Banagher. Within hours it was being reported from Banagher that the town’s Little Red Hen, on the brink of becoming listed in the Guinness Book of Records for her astounding fertility, and the grand marshal last year of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Banagher, had peacefully expired at the ripe age of just under five years.

Her record quickly drove King Billy and Cromwell out of the headlines entirely because, believe it or not, the Little Red Hen of Banagher brought no less than five healthy clutches of live chicks into Banagher every year of her life.  Her last batch of clucking chicks hatched out only in January, and that brought her total production of fine live chicks to a chirping 181altogether.

Little wonder that her proud owner John Dolan was delighted she was chosen to lead the St. Patrick’s Day parade last year. She was pictured, I swear, taking a refreshing drink afterwards from a pint of Guinness and Dolan had applied to have her production records included in the Guinness Book of Records. 

And there is more to come for the Little Red Hen who, incidentally, was named Marmalade. Her fond owner (who has attributed her fertility level to oatmeal in her diet!) has no intention, he told RTE, of allowing his Marmalade to be either buried or disposed of through any food chain.

Marmalade is to be handed over to a Banagher taxidermist to be preserved forever in that fashion. She will then be installed in an imposing glass case for public admiration.

This operation will cost John Dolan, it is reported, in the region of €900 despite the difficult Brexit pressures, but I’m sure he will have significant local support of all kinds to ensure that the Little Red Hen called Marmalade will still be ruling the roost.

No, you can’t beat Banagher.

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